Friday, January 30, 2015

Antebellum Awakening

Antebellum Awakening is the second book in the YA fantasy Network Series by Katie Cross.

I would strongly recommend that readers read Miss Mabel’s School for Girls before this – and warn that this review will contain inevitable spoilers for the first book. Therefore I recommend not reading this review until you’ve read Miss Mabel’s. Feel free to read my review of that first book here.

Half numb from the events at the end of Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and in deep mourning for her mother, Bianca finds herself suddenly at Chatham Castle – her father’s break in tradition in having a family known by all – and many not with a favorable outlook.

Though she’s surrounded by her friends, nothing can distract her from the uncontrollable chaos her powers have become since her mother’s murder. She’s putting everyone is danger by just being present.

Yet the most daunting thing is that she only has six months left before her seventeenth birthday – the day that her Inheritance Curse will kill her, as it’s killed others in her family.

Unless she can somehow break the contract with the cunning, powerful woman who killed her mother – her former teacher, Miss Mabel…

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls was very impressive to me – a suspenseful mix of intrigue, danger and magic. It was included on my Stand-Out Books of 2014, as you lovely bibliophiles know.

Antebellum Awakening was still good… but didn’t stand out to me as much.

It was still good and intriguing, the Network world is fascinating and I always want to know more about it, but the setting of Chatham Castle just wasn’t as gripping as the school in book one.

Whereas in the first book Bianca was in a sort of espionage position, confronting her enemy head on and having to be very sneaky to get away with it – this second novel is more focused on Bianca’s grief and education on controlling her powers.

This doesn’t mean it wasn’t good – it was! Great character development, definitely sympathetic and it’s realistic that Bianca would need to go through this – rather heartbreaking, really.

It just wasn’t edge-of-your-seat exciting and nerve wracking like Miss Mabel’s School for Girls was.

So, don’t expect the same level of suspense – but some relatively good development on the overall plot and a few new details about the Network and what was around before the Network came to be.

I’ll still be interested in book three.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Violet Eyes

Violet Eyes is a YA retelling of The Princess and the Pea, one of the Once Upon a Time books, by Debbie Viguie.

Contented, simple farm girl Violet’s life is made more complicated when she and her family take in a wounded stranger – who turns out to Prince Richard of the realm.

Once he is returned to full health, he’ll have to head to the kingdom after a year abroad locating princesses for his parents, the king and queen, to enter into a competition for his hand in marriage.

Reluctant to do such a thing, Richard instead finds himself intrigued by Violet’s straightforward, strong personality and they quickly fall in love.

Yet in order to have a chance to be together, Violet will need to compete against the many princesses in odd, enigmatic tests that range from the ridiculous to the dangerous…

Violet Eyes moves swiftly, as it sort of has to since it’s just shy of 200 pages.

I’m never a fan of love at first sight – finding it superficial, improbable and irritating – but for the case of a little book like this, I set that quibble aside to enjoy it for what it is. Thankfully the characters aren’t hopelessly mushy about their feelings.

The interesting twist, where the princesses have to compete for the prince’s hand rather than the other way around, made me more willing to play along. It definitely becomes increasingly fun to read as the competition begins!

There were a couple smile-worthy little allusions to Viguie’s other books in the series – Midnight Pearls and Scarlet Moon – when mermaids and werewolves are referred to.

Violet Eyes happily shows that there is more to the strange royal competition than you initially think – making for a good little story with a decent plot and execution.

If you want to divert your attention for a short period – maybe after an emotionally draining novel – this could be an affable choice

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Page Turners

The Page Turners is a YA contemporary horror novel, and the first in a trilogy, by Kevin T. Johns.

Nate, Danny and Spenser are outcasts – and they’ve found that this is far more apparent and dangerous now that they are freshmen in high school.

Daily they are victims of ridicule and, at least in Nate’s case, violence. For Nate, his home life is not much better.

One of the only bright moments the friends look forward to is their self-made club – The Page Turners.

Essentially they meet in the library to discuss their mutual passion for fiction – whether literature, movies or television – and present their opinions and thoughts in an organized, official manner.

It’s during one of these meetings that Nate happens upon a strange book in the library – something old, handwritten and brimming with mystery. He’s sure that it is real magic – but when they speak the incantation they find in English – nothing happens.

…or does it?

The Page Turners is a quickly paced book that is easy and fast to read – as well as surprisingly intriguing!

I felt that the rather creative plot – which I’m not giving away much of in the synopsis I wrote – was relatively well done, too. At times, the writing came across perhaps a little more self-important than needed – maybe a tad more serious than necessary…

Yet the characters were presented with having some rather dark family and personal issues, which gave the fantastical plotline a huge dose of realism as it was grounded in that edginess.

Sometimes I felt that the boys argued too much and I would’ve liked to perhaps see more bonds of friendship – but overall I felt The Page Turners was a very good contemporary horror book that didn’t skimp on character development!

I will be interested in what happens next, for sure.

Monday, January 19, 2015

City of Bones

City of Bones is the first book in the YA urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.

It’s just another night for Clary when she and her best friend Simon are hanging out at the Pandemonium Club in New York City – but when she happens across a strange scene that no one else seems to see, her life takes a turn for the otherworldly.

Trying to brush off the fact that no one else – including Simon – saw the teenagers with peculiar markings covering their skin talking to another teen they kept calling a “demon”, Clary returns home to an overprotective mother that is so upset that Clary is a little late that she wants to take the two of them away for the summer with family friend Luke.

Fuming, Clary finds solace with Simon – until she has another encounter with those mysterious teens and finds out they are Shadowhunters – warriors devoted to purging the earth of demons and keeping other not-fully-human creatures like vampires and werewolves in line.

When her mother disappears and monsters show up at her home, Clary realizes that she has somehow become part of something dangerous and secretive – and everyone she loves is now in jeopardy.

But why do the demons want to go after Clary?

Hmm.

I’m torn, people.

Despite some interesting world building and a good helping of fantasy and supernatural suspense, I had difficulty connecting with the characters of City of Bones. I’m not entirely sure if it was the writing – which was, I feel, at times rather juvenile – or the overall personalities of the characters…

They just didn’t jive with me very smoothly.

However, a vulnerable, sad, horrid personal story from Jace – the main, attractive Shadowhunter Clary meets – did make me feel more empathetic toward him. It brought a bit of a psychological aspect to him, at least. This helped when late in the novel he started doing things that really irritated me – yet I could sort of see why he would make those decisions…

Sort of.

Anywho, with less interrupted reading time, I was able to start getting more entertained by City of Bones. It’s certainly fast paced and has a decent plot. It started to grow on me a little and as it picked up – though still not head over heels – I began to understand the appeal.

Unfortunately, I had been informed of a big twist before reading the book – the unnamed person shall be forevermore banned from discussing books with me – and that certainly didn’t help. It’s a huge reveal – but kind of odd and makes me curious why Cassandra Clare went there….?

But hey – I’m intrigued enough to try book two.

Right now, though, I’m not clamoring.

P. S. I am not a fan of this cover. Not to mention, there are no scenes - from my memory - that included a half naked male. Therefore, not only is the cover not a favorite of mine but it also isn't accurate! Argh.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Well of Lost Plots

The Well of Lost Plots is the third book in the book lover’s fantasy series Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde.

Though it’s been said that these books stand well on their own – I still STRONGLY recommend reading them in order. That means The Eyre Affair first, Lost in a Good Book second and THEN The Well of Lost Plots.

To avoid any potential spoilers for the first two books, I also recommend not reading this review unless you’ve read the prior novels. Deal?

After burning some serious bridges at her Spec Ops-27 Literary Detective job, being pursued by the power-mad Goliath Corporation and continuing to carry the child of a husband that no longer exists, Thursday had to get away.

Where better to get away than inside a book?

Being one of the rare individuals that has entered BookWorld as a non-fictional character, Thursday has been granted permission to participate in the Character Exchange program – allowing a character in the unpublished Caversham Heights go on holiday while Thursday steps in to take her place for, presumably, the next year.

While taking care of herself and her unborn child, her Jurisfiction mentor, Miss Havisham, will continue to teach her the ways of book jumping and book monitoring, as well.

Despite getting cozy in her temporary home, Thursday soon finds out that the hackneyed, pulp mystery mess that is Caversham Heights is up for potential salvage – which is when BookWorld hawks plot devices, characters, etc., on the black market of the Well of Lost Plots.

On top of that, a murderer is targeting Jurisfiction personnel.

So much for rest and relaxation!

Oh, Jasper Fforde!

It’s relatively rare that you are utterly floored by originality. Fforde manages to do that to me. I mean, WOW!

The Well of Lost Plots is truly ingenious – ready for multiple re-reads to fully understand this complex, intricate, fascinating world called BookWorld.

It’s stuffed full of bookish creatures, wondrous rules, clever laws and actions and oh-so-much wittiness! There’s humor, suspense, mystery!

This really is a world as multifaceted, imaginative, involving, entertaining and DIFFERENT as a Harry Potter type of environment. I am a tough one to get to compare to Harry Potter – but the Thursday Next series definitely steps up the game.

Too much fun – yet extremely intelligent, demanding attention and memory to fully enjoy The Well of Lost Plots – I am overcome with the desire to read the whole series RIGHT AWAY.

Thank you, Jasper Fforde!!!

Strongly, strongly recommended!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Angelic Upstart

Angelic Upstart is a YA contemporary fantasy – and third book in the Alex Trueman trilogy – by Martin Dukes.

To fully appreciate and enjoy this trilogy, I strongly recommend reading these books in order. First there is Caught in a Moment and then Worm Winds of Zanzibar.

If you haven’t read them yet, to prevent being spoiled – don’t read this review! Instead, click on those titles to begin reading about Alex Trueman’s adventures!

I’m trusting that the only bibliophiles still reading are caught up with the series…

Returning to normalcy is not as easy as you’d think.

Not for Alex.

After first spending a horrific, mind-bending time in the time-frozen world of Intersticia and then an alternate version of Zanzibar, not to mention the angelic realm of Elysium, normalcy is, well, boring…

Plus, he’s been encouraged to cease using his abilities.

While his friends adapt back to their reality, Alex struggles – and eventually gets involved with a mysterious, fascinating archangel named Nathaniel.

Where the other archangels have forbidden Alex from using his powers, Nathaniel is helping him to hone them.

Before he knows it, Alex is spending almost all of his time with Nathaniel and learning captivating things.

However, it is this very friendship that may risk the survival of their world…

Oh my!!!

Angelic Upstart was… WOW!

Initially I was irritated with Alex – some decisions he makes early on are rather poor and thoughtless – yet also based in a psychologically understandable place.

But when the elements of the plot come together – oh my gosh this is a HORROR STORY!!!

Without giving anything away, I will say that Angelic Upstart is a very effective, disturbing, mesmerizing, thought-provoking novel that keeps going where you don’t think it will go. Martin Dukes doesn’t hold back the punches here, people!

A captivating, twisty, dark, intelligent final entry – terrible, terrible things happen in Angelic Upstart. It features what may be on the most psychotic, terrifying villains I’ve ever read!

It’s a hefty book full of character development, suspense and a fully rounded plot that left me feeling that it all worked together from book one to book three – this is an epic feeling novel!

And when those last few pages were completed I was left with goose bumps! It was not an expected, predictable end – it surprised and touched me!

Angelic Upstart is a memorable conclusion to an imaginative, sharp trilogy that will most certainly be re-read!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Lost in a Good Book

Lost in a Good Book is an adult fantasy, sci-fi, bibliophile’s dream by Jasper Fforde. It is also the second book in the Thursday Next series – the first of which was The Eyre Affair, read my review here.

Truly these books transcend genres and are just stunning achievements in creativity and surrealism.

I strongly, strongly recommend reading The Eyre Affair before Lost in a Good Book. Deal???

Thursday – renowned Special Operative in literary detection - is happily married and resting after a duel to the death with dangerous criminal and murderer Acheron Hades.

Yet the massive Goliath Corporation – with far too many strongholds in the government – has not forgotten how Thursday entered Jane Eyre to accomplish her feat. Nor have they forgotten to pursue the means of doing so themselves.

In order to blackmail Thursday into releasing one of their errant employees – Jack Schitt – from the The Raven, Goliath eradicates someone Thursday loves dearly – leaving her as the only remaining person with the memory of their ever having lived.

Desperate to regain the existence of this person, Thursday works to figure out how she can enter another book without her genius uncle’s Prose Portal.

However, Thursday will soon find out that within the tomes of millions of novels lies the secret world of Jurisfiction – and Miss Havisham has been waiting for her…

Wow – what a mind bender!!!

Jasper Fforde has taken the brilliance of The Eyre Affair and increased it tenfold here!

Lost in a Good Book is startlingly, refreshingly unique and inventive!

It takes an already alternative 1980s England setting and mixes in a brand new world WITHIN books that is so much fun – and SO unpredictable!!!

You never quite know where the plot is going to take you – but it is equally, funny, suspenseful, fascinating and almost exhausting (in a positive way) in its new concepts and environments.

And – as a bibliophile – the idea of book jumping and the “realness” of fictional characters are beyond awesome!

There is so much detail, so much intelligence and cleverness I don’t even know where to start.

I’m ready for book three!!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Rules of Survival

The Rules of Survival is a YA contemporary novel by Nancy Werlin.

A life of tension and walking on eggshells is all Matt and his younger sisters are used to as their daily lives dramatically shift with their mother’s violent, startling mood swings.

As the oldest, Matt has learned to attempt to pull the attention on him when their mother turns more erratically aggressive, but it does not always work. Sometimes Callie or the little one Emmy end up being the victims – either when he’s not there to stop her… or when she’s too determined to be distracted.

It’s a life of fear and survival – every second of every day.

When Matt sees a man named Murdoch protect a young child from an abusive father in a public place, a part of him soars with a hope he long thought was dead.

Could this man – this man that had the courage to stand up to that steely-eyed father – help them too?

Matt knows it’s time to take action…

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Nancy Werlin novel but my prior experiences have been very positive. I’ve read The Killer’s Cousin, Locked Inside, Black Mirror and Double Helix – all of which were amazing, as I recall.

The Rules of Survival was no exception.

In fact, it was much more than that.

This is a harrowing, disturbing, edgy depiction of children in a state of constant trepidation with a mother frighteningly unstable and downright terrifying. The portrayal is never over the top and the narration, which is of Matt telling his youngest sister Emmy about this time of their lives via a written letter, feels very, very real.

With how tired and busy I am after working hard all week, it’s been a while since I’ve read an entire book in one sitting. But that’s what happened with The Rules of Survival – I devoured the whole thing, which is admittedly only 250 pages – in one Saturday afternoon.

Why? Because it is horrifying, gripping, nerve-wracking and impossible to put down due to the investment in these poor children – and the need to know what is going to happen.

By the end I was wowed by how enormously, powerfully touching and memorable The Rules of Survival was.

Strongly, strongly recommended.

My interest in Nancy Werlin has been reignited, no doubt.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Deviation

Deviation is the first book in the futuristic sci-fi YA series The Sophisticates by Christine Manzari.

Cleo is a Sophisticate – one of the children genetically engineered in the Program to combat terrorism since the both economically and murderously destructive Wormwood hit America 30 years ago, changing everything.

She’s a Vanguard – focused more on advanced academics to create a brighter economic future for the country one day. Sophisticates do not have family – they do not have control over their own lives – they are owned by the Program and are reminded of it constantly.

Yet Cleo is not content with this – and when she’s caught hacking into a Program computer system to try and learn more about her donors she gets very upset.

And when she gets upset… something bad happens. A dangerous, unexpected anomaly.

As much as Cleo tries to hide what happened, she’s sent to the Academy to switch from a Vanguard to a Mandate – the military branch of the Program, where Sophisticates are trained to track and kill the nation’s enemies.

She’s not the only Sophisticate that looks like a Vanguard amidst the bulky, muscular Mandates…

Cleo’s determined to find out why.

Deviation was a fine book.

Not the strongest praise, I know.

As always, I strongly recommend people read books for themselves to form their own opinions as we are all so different – and Deviation has a LOT of fans out there!

For me, I found the plot of Deviation to be rather unoriginal and there seemed to be a lot of repetition in the narration.

I felt like we never learned enough about Wormwood. Even though we’re given the impression that the whole story isn’t being revealed – shouldn’t we be told everything that is common knowledge, at the very least? Seemed rather sparse.

Then there’s the aspect of romance in the book – which, though probably one of the strongest plots in Deviation, felt cliché and not genuine enough for me to truly care.

Deviation has some humor and has a vibe of being a mash-up of a high school teen movie and X-Men – but more teen movie, in my opinion.

Sadly, the novel never pulled me in enough to make me feel really connected or invested in anything or anyone. Due to this, after dutifully reading the first half of the book I began to skim the remainder.

I feel bad – but sometimes a book doesn’t harmonize with the reader and there are so many books to read, we sometimes have to make that decision.

Again – READ IT FOR YOURSELF!!!

This could be your next favorite book!